Thursday, February 28, 2013
Matthew 27:44: Even the robbers who were crucified with him reviled Him with the same thing.
This short verse is like the final nail in the coffin of Christ's mental anguish. The sourging by the soldiers was well documented. Bad enough then to have the crowd against Him, doubting and making fun of all that He had taught. Of course, there were the chief priests who had conspired against Him, and actually brought Him to this moment. Their ridicule would be expected.
But then there are the two robbers. They would suffer the same death as Jesus, yet they join in the taunt of the Savior. Matthew's purpose is to show the exteme suffering and rejection of the Jewish Messiah. Mark's account is the same, but Luke records that one of the thieves did repent and ask that he be remembered when Christ entered His Kingdom.
Luke reminds us that even in the worst circumstance the Gospel can reach down and save a soul. One thief was justified by the blood of Christ that day. A perfect reminder that we are all under the condemnation of death until we come to the Savior that bore our sins in His own body on the Cross.
"The Great Crime: I am the Son of God"
Matthew 27:41-43: Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the Cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God, let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him, for He said, I am the Son of God.
The very chief priests who had plotted against Jesus now gloat over their accomplishment of getting Christ crucified. While belittling and ridiculing Him, they uttered a great truth which they themselves did not comprehend. That truth: "He saved others; Himself He cannot save." This is a profound truth that Jesus had brought salvation to others, and yet could not save Himself from the Cross. It was the Cross that would bring validity to the salvation that He brought to others.
Psalm 22 is quoted [whether by intent or just a fulfillment of the prediction of Psalm]. Psalm 22 is remarkable for its accurate description of the crucifixion scene. Only Isaiah 53 rivals that Psalm in describing the pathos of Good Friday.
Jehovah's Witnesses claim that nowhere in the Scriptures does Jesus claim to be the Son of God. They see Him only as the angel of Jehovah. However, in verse 43 we have the chief priests again confirming that the reason for plotting against Jesus was His claim that He was the Son of God. One who is only human claiming to be the Son of God (thus equal with God) is blasphemy worthy of death. There is no way around that. The next time a JW comes to your door, show them that verse, and pray for them that the blindness will be lifted.
Matthew 27:39-40: And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.
The hearts of those passing by were untouched by the Lord's affliction on the Cross. They continued to mock Him, raising again the old accusations.
The false charge that was tendered at the trial at Caiaphas' house is now revived by the crowd beneath the Cross of Jesus. They foolishly thought that He had said that He would destroy the actual Temple Complex and rebuild it in three days. John 2:21 states that Christ was speaking of the Temple of His own body. The three days would be the time that His body would lay in the grave before He would take it up again.
They demanded proof that Christ was indeed the Son of God. To the crowd (and to Satan) the best proof would be for Christ to just float down from the Cross in front of them all. As a proof, it would at the same time counter the value of the Cross. Redemption would be incomplete, and Satan would have his triumph.
How sad that they missed the real miracle that would prove that Jesus was the Son of God--the resurrection after three days in the grave. Today, so many continue to miss the real miracle--even with a day to commemorate it.
Matthew 27:38: Then two robbers were crucifed with Him, one on the right and another on the left.
It was normal in Roman times to have several people crucified at once. The horrific visual was indelibly placed in the mind of any who might think that they lived in a free society. Crucifixion victims were often political prisoners. In this case, Jesus would have been the only one who would represent some sort of rebellion against an oppressive society. Although He made it clear that His Kingdom was not of this world, His detractors made it such.
Matthew is quick to remind his Jewish readers that even in the arrangement of the crosses, there was a fulfillment of Scripture. Isaiah 53:12, part of that great chapter that so accurately depicts the scene of the crucifixion, confidently affirms: And He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
The fact that Christ was crucified with robbers was to all of us a reminder that He came for sinners. Jesus Himself said that He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Christ's motive and mission in coming to earth was not a great photo-op with the leaders of planet Earth, but rather to offer redemption to the hopelessly lost in this sin cursed world. As the second Adam, He came to right the wrongs and set the record straight that had been so marred by the first Adam. How thakful we can be for the cross. How thankful we can be that He even permitted Himself in death to be associated with sinners. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!
Friday, February 22, 2013
Matthew 27:36-37: Sitting down, they kept watch over Him there. And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
the 36th verse refers to the hardhearted, indifferent soldiers who were to watch or guard Jesus while He was on the cross. What must have been in their thoughts that day. Perhaps we all may benefit by sitting down, and watching the Holy Son of God suffering unspeakably at the hands of men whose very lives depended upon His mighty power. We may learn much as we sit down and behold Him there, bleeding and dying for sins not His own.
Thursday, I spent several hours sitting in a county hospital waiting room for one of our church folks. The guards were talking loudly to each other about issues of faith. One guard told the other that her gambling problem was not that bad since Jesus died for all her sins. He admitted to a drinking problem that also was not that bad as long as he did it in moderation. Finally, I went over and mentioned that I was employed by the One who they were talking about, and I had an observation. Gambling and drinking to excess do not cancel salvation, that is true, but think about what Jesus did for us on the cross. He did not mean for his suffering and death to just make it acceptable for us to live like the world. The reaction that we have to Christ's love really demonstrates how much we love Him in return. This is vital, as it indicates the level of our understanding of exactly why Jesus willingly went to the Cross. When I finished, the other guard said, "That is just what I was going to say." She knew the truth, but then still try to bargain so we don't have to give up everything. It is like the diabetic looking at a large chocolate cake, and saying: "It's OK, It won't kill me. I can always take more medicine tomorrow."
It was customary to indicate by a placard the crime for which one was being punished. Executions in the Middle East today still have an accusation written attached to the person being put to death. The effect was to strike fear and awe in the rest of the populace being held in oppression by that government--this is what will happen to you should you resist!
Pilate had the inscription written in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. All four Gospels mention the inscription, but do not record the same words. Putting all four together, we get THIS IS JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Why is there a variation? Each writer might have been looking at one of the three translations of what Pilate wrote. We know that the Jewish leaders wanted Pilate to change the inscription to say, "He said that He was the King of the Jews. Pilate would not bow to them.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Matthew 27:35: Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.
To say "They crucified Him" speaks volumes. The Jewish leaders had their wishes come true--they could not be blamed for the death of this great miracle working Prophet who claimed He was the Son of God. The crucifixion was a form of capital punishment that only the Romans could legally perform. Yet Matthew and the other Gospel writers have already presented the condemning evidence. The Jewish nation is guilty, and yet so are we all.
As is his custom, Matthew is quick to quote Scriptures from the Old Testament that predicted events associated with the Life of Christ. Psalm 22:18 predicts that the very clothes of the Messiah would be divided among those who crucified Him, and yet there would also be a gambling for his vesture (tunic). John 19:23-24 provides more details than we find here in Matthew 27. The garments were divided in four parts for each of the attending soldiers.
They observed that His tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. That is what prompted the soldiers to gamble for who would get the entire tunic.
All of this just confirms the supernatural nature of the Bible. For David to have written 1000 years ahead of the actual crucifixion that soldiers would gamble over the tunic of the Messiah would be an impossibility. It would be like St. Francis in the 10th century predicting what Pope John XXIII would do to revitalize the dying Catholic Church in 1962 (Vatican II).
Matthew 27:32-34: Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross. And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, that is to say, Place of a Skull, they gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink.
Tradition, not Scripture, tells us that Christ fell beneath the weight of His cross, not only once but three times; but this rests on no authentic records. However, it seems evident His physical strength was so weakened by loss of blood and excessive suffering thta even the callous soldiers saw He needed help in bearing His cross; so they laid hold on Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming that way, and compelled him to asist.
Simon had a privilege that he certainly appreciated. The early Christians said that the Alexander and Rufus, mentioned as his sons in Mark 15:21, both became followers of Jesus, and that their father too was of the Christian faith. Again, the Scriptures do not confirm this, but it would be a reasonable deduction.
Finally, they reached the hill outside of the walls of Jerusalem called Golgotha in Hebrew, and Calvary in Latin. The name "the place of a skull" if a reference to Gordon's Calvary today still has features that resemble a skull. General Gordon located this small hill right outside a wall of the city. The first century tomb found soon after during excavation still remains in British hands, and is known today as "The Garden Tomb."
It was customary to give one who was being put to death by crucifixion a drink that would make it easier for him to endure the fearful ordeal through which he would pass. Such a drink, composed of sour wine (or vinegar) and myrrh (a narcotic that dulled pain), was put to the lips of Jesus, but He refused to drink. Christ would not take anything that might numb His mind or alleviate the sufferings that He was undergoing. He would take the full measure of suffering for our sins. Praise His glorious Name!
"Jesus Taunted by the Roman Guards"
Matthew 27:29-31: When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! They they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.
They did not know it, but the action of those soldiers in verse 29 was most significant as they pressed the thorny crown upon Christ's brow. When God cursed the earth for man's sin, He caused thorns and thistles to be brought forth (Genesis 3:18). The thorn is truly the fruit of the curse, and Jesus was about to be made a curse for those who so basely treated Him as well as all mankind. He did this in order that all who would trust in Him might be redeemed from the curse of the law. In Israel, I have felt the two inch thorns that can literally rip open the skin.
Certainly it was in God's plan that the soldiers would mock Jesus for saying that He is the King of the Jews. That statement must have struck them as being so insane. First, it was an insult to the Romans who were the only ones who could set up kings and governors. Second, the Jews were a despised people. In the Middle East today, the Kurds are a despised people by many others today. To have one say "I am King of the Kurds" would mean that he reflected the folly of that group of people. Third, the Roman soldiers knew that the Jewish leaders had found Christ guilty of blasphemy and asked Pilate to eliminate their problem.
So to add insult to injury, the soldiers bowed the knee to Jesus, placed a reed for a scepter in His hand and jeered "Hail, King of the Jews!" To them it was all a huge hoke tht this meek, defenceless Prisoner should ever have imagined Himself a King.To the eye of faith He was never more royal than when He endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself with such holy patience and resignation to the will of the Father.
Just as the Jews had done at the house of Caiaphas, the soldiers spat in His face. When they wearied of their coarse and vulgar treatment of Him, they took the robe off Him and put His own garments upon Him, and then led Him away to be crucified.
"The Scarlet Robe"
Matthew 27:26-28: Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him.
The prelude to a crucifixion is first to scourge the condemned prisoner. A scourge consists of strands of leather attached to a wooden handle. At the end of those strands were bits of metal or bone attached. It was bad enough to be whipped, but those attached objects made it so the back would literally look like furrows of a field. With some prisoners, the scourging would prove fatal, and thus the cross would be unnecessary.No word of reproach is uttered by Jesus during this awful practice.
Jesus is then removed from the place of scourging, and brought into Pilate's residence in the Antonia Fortress, which was just northwest of the temple. The governor would have a garrison of about 600 soldiers there to keep the peace.
Christ's body would have soaked what clothes were left to him. Thus they removed those blood stained clothes, and put on him a discarded scarlet robe. Mark and John both describe the robe as being purple. Probably, it was the closest thing they could find to being a "kingly color." In Roman times, the robe was a military cloak, and it had probably belonged to one of the soldiers. Little did they know that they were insulting, ridiculing, and torturiing the very God who will one day judge their works and condemn them to the Lake of Fire.
Matthew 27:24-25: When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. you see to it. And all the people answered and said, His blood be on us and on our children.
Reserachers at the University of Toronto published data back in 2006 suggesting that people experience a powerful urge to wash themselves when suffering from a guilty conscience. The urge is known as the Macbeth effect, where the blood is seen on the hands and cannot be washed out. It was actually found in the study that washing releived the feelings of guilt. I do not know if Shakespeare had any thought of Pilate's washing his hands, but there is the possibility.
Regardless, church history including the Apostles' Creed places blame on Pilate for Jesus death. "He suffered under Pontius Pilate.
Recognizing his impotence in dealing with the mob of excited people, Pilate called for water and dramaticdally washed his hands before the multitude, proclaiminig his innocence of the blood of this Just Person. Yet he was there as the representative of the imperial throne, and he was responsible under law to condemn the guilty and to acquit the innocent. How little he realized that for all time his name would be linked with the suffering of the Savior. No water could wash away the stain of the blood of the Son of God.
In fearful recklessness the Jews invoked a malediction upon themselves as they cried, "His blood be on us, and on our children." The awful anguish and suffering the unhappy nation has endured throughout the past two thousand years can be traced back to the choice made that day when they preferred a murderer to the One who came in grace to redeem them. However, for every individual among them, as for all others, who will turn to God in repentance, the curse has been turned aside because of our Savior's intercession: Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." Jesus came to bring salvation then, and continues to do that each new day.
Matthew 27:22-23: Pilate said to them, What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ? They all said to him, Let Him be crucified! Then the governor said, Why, what evil has He done? But they cried out all the more, saying, Let Him be crucified!
Pilate asks the question which every man that encounters the message of the gospel has to answer. Romans 1 reminds us that all men are without excuse due to the witness of God's creation.
What are you going to do with Christ? Pilate did not want to deal with this situation of deciding what to do with Jesus. Thus, he asked the crowd assembled. A lot of people do that with Jesus today. They follow the crowd that tries to live in a secular society that wishes away the existence of Christ. The crowds in the streets of France seized the government and banned Christianity during the French Revolution. Now, more than 200 years later, we can still see the results of that calamity in the moral and spiritual fibre of the French living there today in unbelief. Considering America and its change over the last 50 years, we see that the crowd calling for rebellion against God was relatively small--the Supreme Court. In 1962 they banned prayer from the public schools, in 1963 banned the Bible from public schools, in 1973 permitted abortion on demand throughout the land. There were protests, but lawmakers have yet to undo any of the damage done to this nation by that small crowd.
When Pilate asked the question, the throng cried as with one voice, "Let Him be crucified." Thus the King of israel, the Anointed of the Lord, was definitely rejected; and so, for the time, the hopes of the Jews were destined to be obliterated. There could be no kingdom for them when their rightful Ruler was spurned and slain.
Yet today, thanks to the Resurrection, we are still the opportunity to answer that question: What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?
Matthew 27:20-21: But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said to them, Which of the two do you want me to release to you? They said, Barabbas!
Pilate was perhaps the most anxious person present among the Crucifixion participants. He knows that a legal trial would result only in an acquittal of the Prisoner. This would arouse the indignation of the chief priests and scribes, who, Pilate would fear, would misrepresent Pilate to Caesar as an untrustworthy servant of Rome. They could accuse Pilate of being soft on seditionists trying to overthrow the government.
Pilate then chooses to put the decision regarding Jesus to the multitude that had gathered in front of Pilate's Judgment Hall. Democracy had not made it into captured nations, but Pilate briefly offers the people the right to vote on which prisoner will live, and which will die.
Like political operatives, the chief priests went through the crowd persuading them to ask for the release of Barabbas. When Pilate asked, the crowd unanimouly cried out for Barabbas to be released.
During the economic crises that followed World War I, European nations such as Italy and Germany elected men with no moral values because they promised to end the woes in the economy. Mussolini made the trains run on time, and Hitler rebuilt Germany into a war machine stronger than that of any other nation. They did what they promised, and because of that 18 million lost their lives. The priests and scribes convinced the people to choose Barabbas, when the Savior was standing right there.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Matthew 27:19: While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.
The spiritual battle that was going on beneath the surface during the trials and crucifixion does not receive much attention, but I would assume it was acute. All the forces of evil were launched out against Jesus during this time. One indicator of that spiritual battle may be found in verse 19. Dreams were a popular method of divine revelation in Scripture, but there is no indication of this as being a divine revelation. Since the incident is mentioned in Scripture, it is significant.
Pilate did not need any help in determining that Jesus was innocent and that He should be released. His wife's warning only increased that fear that he was dealing with a supernatural individual. I believe that Matthew dwells on this to shame the Jewish nation that should have been spiritually ready to receive the Messiah. Instead, here is a career politician in an outpost of the Roman Empire who has more spiritual depth to perceive the innocence and the extraordinary nature of Christ. Unlike the chief priests, Pilate never challenged the validity of what Jesus said regarding Himself.
Did Pilate become a believer? The Scripture is silent. Church tradition has made a saint of Claudia Procula, the wife of Pilate. Legend says she was a Jewish proselyte who became a believer in Jesus. Again, this is nice, but there is no confirmation in the Scripture record. She sent a message to her husband who was holding court soon after daybreak. The dream of which she spoke would have occurred before Jesus was brought to Pilate. We are not given Pilate's reaction to her message, but can only surmize that he looked for other reasons not to crucify Jesus. In calling Jesus a "just Man" she is defending the innocence of Christ against the charges of the Jewish leaders.
Matthew 27:15-18: Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished. And at that timethey had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ? For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy.
Assured in his own mind that Jesus was innocent of any crime, and yet knowing the implacable character of His accusers, Pilate sought for some way whereby he might release Jesus and yet not displease these wily and unscrupulous religious leaders. In the Old Testament, there was supposed to be a time every fifty years when the slaves were set free, land returned back to its original owner, and all this was at God's direction. As far as we know, the Jewish nation never really observed the Jubilee. Reading this passage gave me the thought that the Romans were perhaps trying to make their Jewish captives feel good on their holiest day.
Pilate uses this occasion to try to free Jesus, but the Jewish leaders already had only one goal in mind--have the Romans execute Jesus. Pilate knew that the motive of Jesus' accusers was to get Pilate to do their work in executing Jesus, and of course take the blame. Barabbas was awaiting execution for leading an insurrection against the government. Books and movies have been made about Barabbas, and yet the Scripture is silent as to what happened to him after his release. The two names are there--the just and holy Son of God and a common criminal. The Jewish nation had their one last chance offered them by Pilate to choose the ""Christ" (anointed one), and be brought into the kingdom of God. But the course of the nation had already been cast, and there was no reversal that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
Matthew 27:11-14: Now Jesus stood before the governor. And the governor asked Him, saying, Are You the King of the Jews? Jesus said to him, It is as you say. And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing. Then Pilate said to Him, Do You nothear how many things they testify against You? But He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly.
The Old Testament predicted: As a lamb before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth (Isaiah 53:7). As long as the questions were based on false and vindictive charges issued by the Jews, Jesus did not speak. Why do we find Jesus beginning his questioning by Pilate with an affirmation that He indeed was the King of the Jews? The answer is that this was not a baseless charge but merely a statement of fact.
Pilate the Governor who held his position in a tenuous manner in this forsaken frontier called Palestine (about as welcoming as Afghanistan was to the Soviet occupation of the late 1970's). Used to the prospect of radicals attempting to overthrow the Roman government, Pilate is astonished at the quiet confidence which the Lord manifested. No accusation perturbed Him. He did not attempt to defend Himself. Assured in his own mind that Jesus was innocent of any crime, and yet knowing the implacable character of His accusers, Pilate sought for some way whereby he might release Jesus, and yet not displease these wily and unscrupulous religious leaders. His actions in this regard will be explored on Monday.
The fact that Jesus did not answer baseless charges does make us wonder if we also should do that. We must be prepared to give an answer for the hope that lies within us, and unfortunately the devil will attempt to destroy our testimony. If defending yourself is going to advance the cause of Christ, then it is proper. Each situation may vary, and a blanket statement cannot be made as to the extent of defending yourself. However, most conflicts in life (not regarding our faith) are answered best by a humble and contrite response, rather than an arrogant destruction of the opposition.
Thursday, February 7, 2013
Matthew 27:9-10: Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced, and gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord directed me.
Matthew, writing to a Jewish audience, is careful to establish the fact that all that occurred in the Life of Christ can be footnoted in Old Testament Prophecy. There are no surprizes with God. Each of the twists and turns in Christ's ministry and now His passion is completely under the sovereignty of God.
While liberals might say that we have a mistake in verse nine, there is a simple explanation. The quote in verses nine and ten is actually a paraphrase of Zecharaiah 11:12-13. Yet, Matthew credits this to Jeremiah. If you know the Hebrew Bible, there were three sections: the Law, Writings (poetry books), and the Prophets. Jeremiah was the first of the prophetic books, and on occasion the entire section was identified by the name Jeremiah. the great commentator J. N. Darby suggested that Zechariah formed part of a scroll that began with the prophecy of Jeremiah, and therefore would bear his name. Also, it is to be noted that one of the major themes of the book of Jeremiah is the story of the potter, and thus there could even be somewhat of an illusion to that emphasis found in Jeremiah. [Our English Bibles follow the Latin order of books for the Old Testament, which bears only general similarities to that of the Hebrew canon]
The import of the passage is that Jesus was sold for the exact amount that was predicted more than four hundred years earlier. The chief priests had no intention of fulfilling Scripture, and neither did Judas. All was done to fulfill every jot and tittle of the Old Testament. For us, this is a tremendous validation of the grand plan of redemption, a plan that was set before the foundation of the world.
Matthew 27:6-8: But the chief priests took the silver pieces and said, It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, because they are the price of blood. And they consulted together and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.
As we said yesterday, the priests were unconcerned as to the truth or untruth of the charges brought against Christ. They were determined to condemn Jesus, and that caused Judas in horror and espair to throw down the money in the temple before committing suicide.
In Acts 1:8 there is more information given: "This man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out." From the Matthew account and the Acts account, we might assume that the limb where Judas hung himself broke under his weight, so that his body was so ruptured in falling to the earth that the condition depicted by Peter resulted. It was a sad and terrible end inddeed to a life that once promised so much.
The priests were suddenly careful about putting the blood-money back into the temple treasury. What hypocrites. They had no problem with paying Judas to betray the Lord of Glory, but they have a problem returning the money to the temple treasury. The point is that no one is exempt from the guilt.
After some consultation, they decide to buy with the money a potter's field. For us in the west, a potter's field is a piece of ground from which clay has been extracted for the making of pottery. Thus, Judas purchased the field with the reward of iniquity, even though he himself was already dead. The field gained the name "The Field of Blood" as a reminder of the transaction in which the priests and Judas had participated. Strangers and those who did not have money for a burial spot would be placed in that field.
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Matthew 27:3-5: then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned by betraying innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? You see to it! Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.
While certainly celebrating the demise of Jesus, Judas the traitor appeared before the chief priests and elders and attempts to "rain on their parade." He was filled with remorse as the full import of the deed he had done began to dawn upon him. Many have tried to excuse Judas on the ground that he may have been over-anxious to see the kingdom of Messiah established, and that he thought possibly by betraying his Master to those that sought to kill Him, that Christ would be forced to show that He was the King of the Jews.
There is no hint of this in Scripture, and the picture of Judas is that he was covetous, taking from the treasury to benefit himself, and finally selling the Lord for the price of a slave. Now with the trials taking place and realizing that Jesus would soon die, Judas was seized with fear, and in his crushing anxiety he tried to undo the wrong of which he had been guilty.
The repentance of Judas was not true self-judgment because of the sin he had committed. The word used here is not the ordinary one for "repented," which implies a complete change of mind or attitude. Rather, it was remorse for what had happened due to the sin. If he had truly repneted, his reaction would have been to claim God's forgiveness, not go out and hang himself.
Bringing the thirty pieces of silver back to those from whom he had received them, Judas exclaimed that he had sinned. Judas knew that there was no flaw in Christ's character, or evil in His behavior.
Coldly the priests replied, "What is that to us? They were determined upon Christ's condemnation. In horror and despair Judas threw down the money, and in a secluded spot hung himself. These events predicted in the Old Testament all fit together in the plan of redemption. Certainly the parallel must be made with Joseph in the Old Testament who was purchased for 20 pieces of silver, the price of a slave in that day. The brothers of Joseph, like Judas, could not get over the guilt that they felt for what they had done.
Matthew 27:1-2: When morning came, all the chief priests and elders of the people plotted against Jesus to put Him to death. And when they had bound Him, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor.
As the Jews had no authority, under the Roman regime, to visit the death penalty upon anyone, they were unable to carry out the Levitical law which condemned a blasphemer to death (Leviticus 24:15-16), unless they took things into their own hands and acted contrary to the code imposed upon them by Caesar's government. They later did thin in the case of Stephen who, like his Lord, was charged with blasphemy
In the case of Jesus the chief priests and other leaders were anxious to shift the responsibility for His death to the Romans, in order that the people who had heard Jesus gladly might not turn indignation upon them. Therefore, having declared Him worthy of death their next move was to bring Him before Pilate, the procurator of Judea at that time.
They waited until daybreak before taking Jesus to Pilate. Someone probably remembered in their excitement to complete the trial that it was illegal to have a trial in the night. Thus, it was significant that they waited until daybreak before taking their case to the Governor.
It is likely that Pilate had alreay heard of Jesus as some harmless zealot of a Jewish sect. Now Pilate is called upon to pass judgment upon Christ as a seditionist, who was endeavoring to arouse the populace for rebellion against Rome and to accept Him as their King instead of Caesar. Of course, none of this had been discussed when Jesus was under examination by the Jewish Sanhedrin. They were wise enough to know that Pilate could care less about Jewish law.
To Pilate, this was a forsaken outpost of the Roman Empire. Rome never had a favorable attitude toward the Jews, and had only contempt toward their laws. Thus, an argument that would bring Cesar into the mix was necessary to win Pilate's approval.
It is interesting, as a sidelight, to know that liberal critics of the Bible enjoyed making fun of the name "Pilate" as there was no outside proof that there was a Procurator by that name in Judea. in 1931 in Ceaserea, the place on the coast of the Mediterranean where Paul would later be bound, they found an inscription with the name of Pilate and the name of the emperor. Liberals then had to retreat to some other criticism. How thankful we can be for archaeology, which only proves the Bible true!
Matthew 26:73-75: A little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you. Then he bagan to curse and swear, saying, I do not know the Man! Immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times. So he went out and wept bitterly.
Each of the gospels adds something to this picture of the denial by Peter. Mark adds that this was the second time that the rooster crowed. Luke adds the look that the Savior gave to Peter after he cursed in front of the crowd. John adds that one who was in the group of the servant of the high priest (whose ear Peter cut off) placed Peter in the garden with Christ. Matthew emphasizes the pathos of the moment in Peter's life--he went out and wept bitterly.
Peter knew what he was doing as he denied Christ with curses against His Savior. How that must have hurt Christ far more than those who struck Him in the face.
But think what it meant to Peter as well. When country music legend Tammy Wynette died, the real story was that former husband George Jones stood outside the church and wept bitterly. Was he responsible for her early demise? I am sure that those who knew all that he had done to her in their marriage would respond in the affirmative. He was most likely drunk, but he remembered what he had done. The key word in this passage is "remembered." That is a frightening concept--it wakes you in the night and you can't get back to sleep. The regrets of that brief episode would have placed Peter on the shelf for the rest of his life, and there would have been no relief. He could have done something, but he lied instead.
Perhaps uppermost in Jesus' mind was the restoration of His broken disciple, which is detailed in John 21.. Jesus looked beyond Peter's fault and saw his need. Thankfully that is what Jesus has done for us when He went to the Cross. Truly, amazing grace.
Matthew 26:69-72: Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him, saying, You also were with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied it before them all, saying, I do not know what you are saying. And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, This fellows also was with Jesus of nazareth. But again he denied with an oath, I do not know the Man!
A maid servant, who had been eyeing him, came boldly up to Peter and charged him with having been in the company of Jesus of Galilee. Taken unawares, he did not have the courage to confess that it was indeed true. On the contrary, he denied before them all, insiting that he knew nothing of what was being said.
Peter moves out onto the porch where he is challenged by another maid who exclaimed: This fellows was also with Jesus of Nazareth." With an oath Peter again denied all knowledge of theMan who was enduring such suffering inside the high priest's palace. In an oath, one calls on God as his witness. Think about that. God was inside being mistreated by man, and God's best friend is outside invoking the Name of God to witness to the fact that Peter did not know the Lord.
Reading this, I would have only the darkest thoughts regarding the future of Peter. Today, a young couple married four years ago called me and in the screams given, I picked up that a divorce was imminent. The reasons from one side were nothing different than what is to be expected in the early years of any marriage. Yet, the other side stated that they had been totally betrayed as the spouse had been unfaithful.
Peter had in a real sense called for a divorce from the service of the Lord. He saw that continuing a relationship with Christ was too dangerous. This theme will continue tomorrow.
Have you ever denied the Lord. God never desires divorce, only reconciliation. If you feel alienated from God right now, come to Him in contrition and ask that He would begin a work of restoration in you. God is able to do more than we ask or think!
Matthew 26:66-67: What do you think? They answered and said, He is deserving of death. Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hand, saying, Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck You?
Perhaps you have drempt of revenge against that one you have feared--teacher, employer, relative, neighbor. Your pent-up anger has boiled, and you wait for the day when you can explode. Satan has attempted to destroy the testimony of Jesus and failed. Now, Jesus is a prisoner in the house of the High Priest, and all the hatred placed in the hearts of those in the Sanhedrin by the Prince of Darkness is permitted in these verses to be revealed. When Caiaphas asks: What do you think? The Sanhedrin gives the well rehearsed cry for the death penalty.
The Sun of Righteousness, the Son of God, the King of the Universe--looks in these verses only like the man of sorrows. They spat in His face and beat Him. Others struck Him with the palms of their hands. It was judgment day, but the ones doing the judging would find that they had condemned the Lord of Glory. Imagine how composed the Lord had to be when they would strike Him and then ask that He would prophesy who had stricken Him.